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437 


THURSDAY, APRIL io, 1873 


INSTINCT 

T HE very valuable contribution to Psychology made 
by Mr. Spalding in his paper on Instinct ( Mac¬ 
millan’s Magazine for February), and the letters and 
article which have lately appeared in this Journal, will no 
doubt stimulate research, and lead to some rational ex¬ 
planation of what has hitherto been enveloped in a mist 
of metaphysics. Mr. Spalding has not only proved him¬ 
self in acute thinker, he has shown a rare ability in de¬ 
vising experiments, and we may fairly expect that his 
researches will mark an epoch. I am the more grateful 
to him because his instructive results, though seeming to 
contradict, do really furnish experimental confirmation of 
the views put forth in my work, now in the press, wherein 
it is argued that Instinct is lapsed Intelligence : that what 
is now the fixed and fatal action of the organism, was 
formerly a tentative and discriminating (consequently 
intelligent) action : in a word that what is now a con¬ 
nate tendency was formerly acquired experience. 

There is great need of precise definition of terms. 
What is Instinct ? What is Experience ? What is In¬ 
telligence? Twenty different writers indicate twenty 
different things by these terms. They do not distinguish 
between Instinct and Impulse; between Experience 
acquired by the individual, and Experience transmitted 
from ancestors ; between Intelligence, the discernment of 
Likeness and Unlikeness in feelings, and Intellect, the 
discernment of Likeness and Unlikeness in symbols. 
Above all they seldom make clear whether they are treat¬ 
ing any fact from the -psychological or from the psycho- 
genetical point of view, i.e. whether they are describing 
the Anatomy or the Morphology of the Mind. It is, for 
instance, one thing to affirm that our perception of Space 
is a perception necessarily conditioned by our organism, 
and in that sense a priori ; another thing to affirm that 
this conditioned structure is itself the evolved result of 
ancestral experiences of Sight, Touch, and Motion, and 
in that sense the perception of space is a posteriori. The 
point of difference between the empirical and nativistic 
schools may be got rid of by such a precision in the 
question. The vital point will then be between the ad¬ 
vocates of evolution and the advocates of creation. 
Those who hold that the Organism is evolved, must hold 
that its perceptions (and instincts) are evolved through 
Experience. Those who hold that the Organism is 
created, and was from the first what we see it now, must 
hold that its perceptions (and instincts) are pre-ordained, 
and have no experiential origin whatever. 

Having thus cleared the ground of a mass of obstruc¬ 
tion, we may now approach the subject of Instinct. In 
what sense can it be said to be dependent on Experience ? 
Obviously this cannot be answered till we are agreed on 
the meaning to be assigned to the term Experience. I 
have defined it the registration of Feeling. And what is 
Feeling ? It is reaction of the sentient Organism under 
stimulus. This reaction has obviously two factors : the 
structure of the organism, and the nature of the stimulus. 
It is not every response of the organ that can be a feeling, 
it is not every feeling that can be an experience. The 
No. 180 —Vol. VII. 


secretion of a gland is a response, physiologically similar to 
the response of a sensory organ ; but the former is not a 
feeling, although it enters as an element into the mass of 
Systemic sensation ; and the response of a sensory 
organ, although a feeling, will not be an experience 
unless it be revivable; and this revival requires that it 
should be registered in the modification impressed 
on the sentient structure. It is true that rigorously 
speaking no body, not even an inorganic body, can be 
acted on without being modified; every sunbeam that 
beats against the wall alters the structure of that wall ; 
but these minute alterations are not only inappreciable 
for the most part, by any means in our power, they are 
also mostly annulled by subsequent alterations. In one 
sense, therefore, no impression ever excites Feeling with¬ 
out modifying the sentient structure ; but some impres¬ 
sions, especially when iterated, produce definite and 
permanent modifications; and these are registrations 
capable of revival, i.e. of the feelings registered, so that 
when the organism is stimulated its reaction will be de¬ 
termined by those past reactions, and the product will be 
a feeling more or less resembling the feelings which were 
formerly produced. Thus we have Feeling as the re¬ 
action of the Organism; and the Organism itself as a 
structure which has been modified by its reactions on 
external stimuli. What the structure of the Organism is 
at any stage determines what will be the kind of sentient 
reactions it will have. Experience is the registration of 
Feeling, registered in those modifications, which, because 
they are modifications of structure, must have corre¬ 
sponding activities of Feeling, and from these spring 
Actions. To trace the history of these modifications or 
their feelings is Morphology or Psychogeny ; to describe 
their results is Anatomy or Psychology. 

We cannot be in doubt then whether Instinct is or is 
not dependent on Experience; we can only ask: Is a 
particular action characteristic of a particular animal 
species, one that the animal has itself learned to per¬ 
form through the adaptation of its organs, under the 
guidance of sensible impressions reviving the past im¬ 
pressions of its experience ; or an action inevitably 
determined by the reactions of the structure inherited 
from ancestors, so that sensible impressions revive 
ancestral experiences registered in the modifications im¬ 
pressed on the structure? The answer in each case can 
oniy be approximative; and for this reason : until the 
organism has the requisite degree of development for 
the performance of the actions, there can be no mani¬ 
festation of the instincts, and there are few of the in¬ 
stincts manifested at birth. 

How, then, shall we define Instinct ? How separate 
the actions which are congenitally determined, from those 
which are incidentally determined ? Both require the 
indispensable conditions of an appropriate structure and 
appropriate stimuli. It is obvious that we cannot fix 
upon the structure alone ; and yet the congenital tenden¬ 
cies of that structure must be taken into account; for 
we see instincts not manifested until long after many 
other actions have been acquired—as in the case of the 
sexual instinct. But if congenital tendencies sufficed, we 
should call the flowering of plants at their normal season 
when transplanted to a different climate, an instinct. 
Many would say that an action common to an entire 

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© 1873 Nature Publishing Group 







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NATURE 


[April 10 , 1873 


group of animals must be an instinct, since it could not 
be acquired through individual experience. But how if 
the conditions of acquisition are also common to the 
whole group ? Thus an infant certainly learns to scratch 
itself; since, however it may itch, some considerable ex¬ 
perience is necessary before it learns to localise the sen¬ 
sation. As, however, the conditions of this acquisition 
are common to all children, all learn to scratch them¬ 
selves. Now in many animals this is an inherited acqui¬ 
sition ; they scratch themselves from the first. Whether 
the infant also inherits a structure which would develop 
into one as apt as that of the animal, cannot be ascer¬ 
tained ; all we know is that the infant’s nervous structure 
is too immature at first to permit the localisation of sen¬ 
sation. How much of the subsequent aptitude is the 
result of congenital tendency, and how much of acqui¬ 
sition through incidental experiences acting on a predis¬ 
posed organism, cannot be estimated.'*' 

That we require some character to distinguish the in¬ 
stinctive from the impulsive actions, mav be readily shown. 
No one calls Breathing, Secretion, Excretion, &c., in¬ 
stincts. Yet these are the actions of congenital tendencies 
in the organism. “ A hungry chick,” says Mr. Spalding, 
“ that never tasted food, is able on seeing a fly or spider 
for the first time, to bring into action muscles that never 
were so exercised before, and to perform a series of deli¬ 
cately adjusted movements that end in the capture of the 
insect.” Every one would pronounce this a t vpical 
case of Instinct. Now compare with it the following, 
which no one would class among the instincts ; A new¬ 
born animal that has never breathed before is able on first 
feeling the stimulus of the atmosphere to bring into action a 
very complicated group of muscles which never were so 
exercised before, and to perform a series of delicately 
adjusted movements which end in the aeration and circu- 
culation of the blood. 

This contrast may lead us to the character sought. 
Understanding that every line of demarcation in psychical 
phenomena must be more or less arbitrary, and only 
justified by its convenience, we may draw such a line 
between Impulse and Instinct. Impulses are the actions 
which from the first were fatal, inevitable, being simply 
the direct reflex of the stimulated organs. Given the 
respiratory organs and the atmosphere, Respiration is the 
inevitable result. Given the secretory organ and the 
plasmaj Secretion is the inevitable result. There is no 
choice, the action either takes place or it does not. 

Instincts are also fatal, inevitable, but they were not 
always so ; the element of choice intervenes; and although 
the intelligent discrimination may be almost entirely 
lapsed, it never is wholly lapsed. The guiding sensation 
is still discriminative, selective. Hence instincts vary with 
varying conditions. Thus the nutritive impulse which 
yvhen unsatisfied causes the uneasiness of desire, and 
which moves the animal in search of f ood, is markedly 
distinguishable from the instinct which selects the appro¬ 
priate food and rejects all the rest. If an animal eats only 
certain kinds of food, out of many which would be nu¬ 
tritious, it is because these kinds have been selected by it, 
or by its ancestors. Every chicken, Mr. Spalding assures 

* The examples of dogs and horses finding their way home, however 
inarvellous, cannot be affiliated on Instinct, since it is very far from common 
to the species: for one dog who finds his way home, hundreds are help- 
ess when lost. 


us, has to learn not to eat its own excrement. “They 
made this mistake invariably, but they did not repeat it 
oftener than once or twice.” He also has this remark :— 
“ Chickens, as soon as they are able to walk, will follow 
any moving object ; and when guided by sight alone they 
seem to have no more disposition to follow a hen than to 
follow a duck or a human being. Unreflecting onlookers 
when they saw chickens a day old running after me, and 
older ones following me miles and answering my whistle, 
imagined that I must have some cccuit power over the 
creatures, whereas I simply allowed them to follow me 
from the first. There is the instinct to follow ; and, as we 
have seen, their ear, prior to experience, attaches them to 
the right object.” 

I should rather say, “ there is the impulse to follow : 
and the instinct to follow the mother, or a duck, or the 
master who feeds them, is the selected action which 
becomes rapidly an organised habit.” It is one of the 
conclusions of my work that all our involuntary and 
automatic actions, were originally voluntary, and that all 
instinctive actions were originally intelligent. In the 
case now under consideration, the impulse to follow is a 
fixed tendency ; the instinct to follow is facultative at first, 
and becomes fixed by habit, but is always, even when most 
firmly fixed, guided by discriminating feeling. 

To conclude : where there is no alternative open to an 
action it is impulsive ; where there is, or originally was, an 
alternative, the action is instinctive ; where there are 
alternatives which may still determine the action, and the 
choice is free, we call the action intelligent. 

George Henry Lewes 


HANDBOOK FOR I'HE PHYSIOLOGICAL 
: LABORATORY 

Handbook for the Physiological Laboratory. By E. Klein, 
M.D. ; j. B. Sanderson, F.R.S. ; M. Foster, F.R.S. ; 
and T. L. Brunton, M.D., D.Sc. (Churchill.) 
TUDENTS of chemistry have, for a long time, by 
means of the works of Fresenius and others, had 
the opportunity, almost unaided, of verifying for them¬ 
selves most of the experimental results of which they 
hear in lectures, and read in text-books ; and thus many 
are able, before they have finished their educational 
course, to obtain a thorough practical knowledge of the 
science. Such has not been the case with regard to 
physiology; the subject is less advanced, and has pro¬ 
gressed more slowly ; perhaps this is because the descrip¬ 
tions of the methods by which the ends have been 
arrived at, as given by lecturers and writers, are incom¬ 
plete and insufficient. The work before us is the first 
important attempt that has been made to put the com¬ 
mencing physiologist in a fair position to begin original 
work on the subject, by giving him the necessary direc¬ 
tions for himself performing many of the fundamental 
' experiments on which the science is based. Whether 
physiology in its most comprehensive sense, as under¬ 
stood by the authors of this work in their title, is a single 
branch of science which can be thus treated in its unity, 
or whether it ought to be divided up and incorporated 
with others already established, is a point which has not 
yet been satisfactorily settled, and which the perusal of 
this book may assist in proving. 


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